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Thanks a Latte, Caffeine!

More than 85% of U.S. adults rely on coffee to boost their energy throughout the day, but what exactly does it do to our brains?

Coffee’s most lucrative assets

Among many healthy antioxidants, the compound that truly gives coffee its kick, and what many people rely so heavily on it for, is caffeine! Naturally found in over 60 different plants, Caffeine is often consumed in teas, coffees, sodas, and even in some foods.

Did you know, caffeine is a drug?

That’s right! Caffeine is a natural central nervous system stimulant that works when it prevents the neurotransmitter adenosine from functioning in the brain. Adenosine is what makes us sleepy, it binds to receptors in our neurons and slows brain activity. It naturally increases throughout the day, promoting sleep and eventually making us feel drowsy when it’s time to go to bed. However, caffeine’s molecular structure is very similar to adenosine, so it fights for its receptors, and when it successfully binds to them, it prevents adenosine from getting to them, and therefore aiding in eliminating that sleepy feeling. This stimulates the central nervous system, and is what gives us that sense of alertness!

Caffeine can be a healthy powerhouse

Brain entropy is the quantitative measure of disorder within the functions of the brain. Its quantification of the brain’s complexity is essential in measuring conscious experience as well as the brain’s capacity for adaptation. Interestingly enough, consuming caffeine is seen to have an increase in resting brain entropy, which has a correlation to higher processing abilities. This means that a higher resting brain entropy means higher information processing capacities. Not only are you more alert, you are able to process more info, all thanks to your morning cuppa!

While caffeine works hard to block adenosine, it additionally stimulates the brain by promoting the release of other neurotransmitters like noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin that improve various aspects of of brain function like mood, reaction time, attention, and even learning, among other things!

You know what they say about too much of a good thing…

Much like other drugs, regular caffeine consumption can lead to a tolerance, with people needing to consume more to get the same effects. A dependency can occur very fast, as little as 7 days, and be able to be sustained with incredibly small doses at 100mg, compared to the average 200mg-400mg. This in turn can lead to withdrawal symptoms like headaches, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, nausea, and even depressed moods. The severity and variety of these symptoms vary from person to person, and should not be taken lightly. It’s been shown that a vast majority of caffeine consumers do it mostly to avoid withdrawal symptoms, as it takes anywhere from 2 to 9 days to successfully do so.

The two sides of one coin… or cup

Caffeines’ double edged sword of rewarding individuals with alertness, while punishment in withdrawals make it one of humanities’ most beloved and cared for foods. Caffeine is a blessing and a curse, and one should be wise to regularly evaluate their relationships with it. Thanks a latte, caffeine!


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